Mo’ne Takes Little League Loss

first_imgSOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Mo’ne Davis didn’t have her best stuff when she and her Philadelphia teammates needed it most, and Las Vegas took advantage.Dallan Cave and Brennan Holligan hit two-run homers, lefty reliever Austin Kryszczuk got out of two big jams, and Las Vegas beat Philadelphia and its star pitcher 8-1 in the Little League World Series on Aug. 20.Davis, just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series and the only one to win a game on the mound, took the loss.“Mo’ne didn’t have her A game today,” Philly Manager Alex Rice said. “At this point, we’re playing to get to Saturday.”The victory puts Las Vegas in the Aug. 23 U.S. title game and sends Philadelphia into an elimination game on Aug. 20 against Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West in a matchup of inner-city teams. The Great Lakes champion beat Pearland, Texas 6-1 on Aug. 19 night in an elimination game.“I think it’s terrific,” Rice said. “I’ve been looking forward to playing Chicago since we got here.”Davis, the darling of the sports world with her amazing success and poise, was both masterful and ordinary on a night made short because of pitch-count rules.She allowed three runs and six hits and struck out six in 2 1-3 innings before leaving after 55 pitches. That makes her eligible to pitch again in the U.S. championship game on Aug. 23.Davis played first after her stint on the mound and was switched to right field in the top of the sixth, but she dazzled her opponents more than once on the mound with off-speed deliveries and tantalizing pitches just off the plate.“She’s very crafty,” said Kryszczuk, who picked up the victory. “She’s a great pitcher. That triple in the first was huge and then she settled down. Great job by us to get this victory.”The grassy hill beyond the outfield fences at Howard J. Lamade Stadium was jammed with so many cheering fans in lawn chairs that it looked like the bleacher section at any ballpark as 34,128 fans craned to see every pitch.And they had an effect on Las Vegas, an afterthought at best to many before the game.“The crowd got to us at times. It was hard to communicate,” Las Vegas Manager Ashton Cave said. “That’s a big weight to carry on a 13-year-old’s shoulders what goes on publicly. They definitely deserve the attention that they get, but we have the first Nevada team in history in 75 years to make it to this point. To come through and do what we’ve done, we’re just definitely making a mark.”The 5-foot-4 Davis, who has given the Taney Youth Baseball Association Little League in Philadelphia notoriety no one could have imagined, tries to use the first two innings to get to know the home plate umpire’s strike zone, and the first time through the order gauges where the opposing players don’t like the ball.It worked like a charm in her first outing in the World Series as she pitched a two-hit shutout. She didn’t get that chance on this night against hard-hitting Las Vegas, which had outscored its first two opponents 25-4.Davis, her long braids flopping over her shoulders on every pitch, allowed hits to the first two batters as Philadelphia fell behind. Leadoff hitter Zach Hare lofted a soft single to center and Kryszczuk followed with a resounding triple to right center for a 1-0 lead.Unfazed, Davis struck out the side, getting Holligan looking and Brad Stone and Andrew Matulich swinging.Philadelphia threatened in the bottom of the first, but Las Vegas right fielder Alex Barker made a dazzling diving catch at the warning track of a drive by Jack Rice to end the inning and strand two Philly runners.“It was amazing,” said Stone, who found out he was starting in warmups.After reaching back for something extra to get out of that first-inning jam, Davis sputtered again. Cave slammed a two-run shot to left-center, a liner that just cleared the fence for a 3-0 lead.Josiah Cromwick and Hare followed with singles, but Davis settled down again and struck out Kryszczuk swinging and Holligan looking again.She left in the top of the third in favor of lefty Erik Lipson, but she wasn’t through competing. After falling behind 0-2 in the count in her second at-bat, Davis worked a walk with runners at second and third and Zion Spearman scored when the fourth ball bounded away from the catcher.When Tai Shanahan followed with a perfect bunt single in front of the plate, the Philadelphia fans began chanting “Let’s go Taney! Let’s go Taney!”But Kryszczuk came on in relief and Las Vegas escaped. He got Lipson looking at a third strike and Eli Simon lined into a double play to end the threat.In the fifth, Kryszczuk struck out Spearman swinging with two runners on.Las Vegas tacked on five runs in the top of the sixth, keyed by an RBI double by Hare and Holligan’s homer.Las Vegas entered the game on a serious roll. The Mountain Ridge Little League champions beat Rapid City, South Dakota 12-2 and then routed Chicago 13-2 in four innings in a mercy-rule game on Aug. 17 behind five homers, a grand slam by Stone and two from Kryszczuk.Davis began her eye-opening appearance in the showcase event by throwing a two-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory over Nashville. She had eight strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter and needed only 70 pitches to complete the game.Davis also threw a three-hit shutout to lead Taney to an 8-0 victory over Delaware in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game, so she has a flair for the dramatic.The glare of the spotlight on Davis and her teammates only grew as newly elected Major League Baseball Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred threw the ceremonial first pitch a day after Davis became the first Little Leaguer to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.“Last week, this week, maybe next week, she’s owned the sports conversation,” Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Chris Stone said. “How often do you get to say this about a 13-year-old girl? It’s the easiest type of story to identify as a cover story.”(JOHN KEKIS, AP Sports Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

US World Hoops Opens With Finland

first_imgBILBAO, Spain — They are the biggest thing in Bilbao, backed by 8,000 fans — not to mention some Angry Birds — whose free-spending boosters are such believers they’ve already started lining up transportation to the second round.And if looking good in the stands meant as much as on the court when Finland received a debated wild card to the FIBA Basketball World Cup, that’s not the players’ problem. Their goal is to make the fans’ trip worthwhile.A strong performance against the U.S. would be a good start.The Finns make their World Cup debut Aug. 30 against the top-ranked Americans, who will feel like they’re playing a road game inside the Bilbao Exhibition Center.“We’re here to fight and obviously it’s a pretty big mountain to climb Saturday, but we just try to face one situation at a time and hope after 40 minutes that we get a good game out of it,” Finland veteran and former NBA player Hanno Mottola said.For the Americans, it’s step one of an expected lengthy march to Madrid for the gold-medal game, a chance for a team not yet in top form to keep getting better.For Finland, it’s something closer to the Super Bowl.Finnish officials expect their fans to fill perhaps half of the 16,261-seat arena, with thousands more possibly coming to this Basque city. Supporters chartered more than 40 planes from Finland and aren’t stopping there, looking into renting a train to take them to Barcelona if Finland advances to the knockout round.Finland finished ninth in last summer’s European championship, failing to qualify automatically for the World Cup. But basketball’s governing body made the 39th-ranked Finnish the lowest-ranked team ever to receive a wild card to its world championship, taking note not only of the team’s improving performance but also the “Wolfpack’s” fan and financial backing.Before the wild cards were awarded in February, Finnish company Rovio, maker of the popular Angry Birds games, had agreed to provide advertising for FIBA if Finland was selected. Finland also has support of Microsoft, whose name is on their practice jerseys, but Mottola disputes that his team is here simply for economic reasons.“If people use that lame excuse of Angry Birds, Rovio, I don’t see Rovio here anywhere,” he said. “Obviously, if we’ve got some big, big companies in Finland like Nokia and Microsoft and Rovio, if they’re willing to help Finnish athletes and teams, who wouldn’t take that help? But I don’t think it’s a corporate decision. And also, I mean, who else brings in 8,000 fans?”The top seven finishers in the European championship qualified automatically, leaving Finland next in line among last year’s finishers from Europe once Italy withdrew from the wild card bidding. The other wild cards went to Greece, Turkey and Brazil, all ranked in the world’s top 10.“I think we fulfilled every category that FIBA wanted. So I mean, if you show me a better team in the last three years, then fine, but obviously FIBA felt that we bring a lot of excitement here,” Mottola added.“If I would choose a way how to get qualifications, I wouldn’t have wild cards, but that’s not our problem. I know there’s been a lot of talk, we were right there from the beginning. I don’t think there’s a question that we definitely belong here because of our basketball success.”Besides Mottola, who helped Utah reach the 1998 NCAA championship game, Finland’s roster is filled with players who have played in the U.S., including Erik Murphy, who spent last season with the Chicago Bulls. They play an American style, looking to push the pace and shoot 3-pointers.“They appear to me to have great camaraderie and an amazing work ethic. They have good guards and any team can cause you problems when they have good guards and they play hard and they’re motivated. And they shoot a lot of 3s,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “If all of a sudden they see three or four go in in a row, you get even more confidence.”Krzyzewski’s team was visited at practice by Bilbao’s Mayor, with fans waiting outside the gym for pictures and autographs.“It’s pretty humbling to see how many NBA fans there are around the world,” U.S. guard Klay Thompson said. This time, most of them will be there to see the other team.(BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more